It’s truly amazing how everything can change in an instant but that is what happened to Cooper Marody’s path in the spring of 2019.
Marody was, at one time, a much talked about prospect for the Oilers than many thought had a reasonable chance to make the 2019/20 opening night roster and impact that lineup after a phenomenal rookie pro season in 2018/19.
This year, Marody has been ranked #14 by our panel of experts. The voting was as follows:
Marody wasn’t drafted by the Oilers (he was a 6th round pick of the Flyers in 2015) but is the current trade return from the organization selling pending UFA Patrick Maroon at the 2018 trade deadline (then GM Peter Chiarelli traded Maroon for a 3rd round pick which he subsequently flipped to the Philadelphia Flyers for Cooper Marody).
I had never heard of Marody at the time of the trade when he was developing his craft at the University of Michigan at the time. Given my curiosity, I did watch two Michigan games at the end of the 2017/18 season to get a sense of what type of player Marody was and I was very pleasantly surprised. Marody was an impact player for the Wolverines. While he did not dominate the ice shift after shift (that was Quinn Hughes from the back-end), he showed plus skill with the puck and good hockey sense. He showed much more skill than I anticipated going into the games. My eye-test matched his box-cars as he led Michigan in scoring with 51 points in only 40 games. Now, age is always a factor when analyzing college players but this would have been his 20-21 age season - he was not a senior. I came away thoroughly impressed.
Marody signed his ELC with the Oilers, turned pro and played the 2018/19 season in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors. What a season it was for the rookie pro as he tore the league apart along with fellow rookie pro and 20-year old Tyler Benson and the older Josh Currie as his primary linemates.
I watched about 75% of the Condors’ games that season and Marody was full value for his 64 points in 58 games (and plus 31 rating). The line was absolutely dominant, in particular in the second half of the season when the Condors went on a record-setting winning steak. The line would spend shift after shift after shift in the offensive zone, gain entry with ease, cycling, creating scoring chances and, of course, producing. As good a rookie season as Tyler Benson had on Marody’s left-wing, Marody was the clear driver of the line and the puck-transporter, consistently gaining clean zone entry with ease. The line spent so much time in the offensive zone that I became worried that the trio wasn’t developing their defensive games.
Marody did get a cup of coffee with the Oilers during the season and dressed for 6 games. Given his most common linemates were Milan Lucic, JJ Khaira and P. Russell, it was no surprise that he came away pointless in approximately 8 minutes per game. What was clear though was that, while a skilled offensive player, his skating was not up to NHL standards - he’s not fast nor does he have great edges and he seemed to consistently be a small step behind at the NHL level.
Notwithstanding a pedestrian cup of coffee, it was a successful first professional regular season for Marody and Oilers fans had him squarely on their radar as a prospect of interest. Everything changed in the fourth game of the AHL playoffs when, former Oiler draft pick and noted “coke machine”, Kale Kesey took a vicious, dirty and illegal run at Marody who suffered a concussion and was done for the year.
At the time, we didn’t know that the full ramifications of the hit and Oilers fans went into the summer thinking Marody had a real shot at the 2019/20 NHL roster. Marody is a natural center and the Oilers, as usual, had a center spot open in the bottom six along with winger positions, the opportunity was going to be there for Marody.
Generally after a cup of coffee, developing prospects have a good sense of what they need to do and what they need to work on in order to make it at the NHL level. It was clear that Marody’s skating needed to improve if he was going to make it and this fan was extremely disappointed to listen to an interview with Marody on the eve of 2019 training camp where Marody indicated that he didn’t specifically work on his skating as “its never held him back before”.
Marody wasn’t great at training camp and was quickly assigned to the Condors where he proceeded to have a regression year, in and out of the lineup with injuries and never really gaining any traction. He ended up with only 17 points in 31 games and finished -9 on a poor Condors team.
From accounts, Marody never really “felt right” during the season and was still feeling the effects of the Kale Kesey attack. It was heartening to hear him speak recently about finally feeling 100% healthy and normal and ready to get his game back. Given the delay in the start of the 2020/21 NHL season, in September the Oilers loaned Marody to Dornbirn of the Austrian League and the hope was that he would be an offensive leader of the team, get some games in as a 100% healthy player and then come back to North America when training camps started up and compete for an NHL roster spot.
The disappointment continued as, after just one game, Marody was back on a plane for North America after sustaining another injury and hasn’t played hockey since. While I have not heard anything official and sleuthing information about the Austrian League is no easy feat, I have read reports that, yes, the issue is with his head.
At this point, the hope is that Marody can get back to 100% health because, until he does, his chances at an NHL career or gone. To the extent he can get his health back, he has the skill and offensive hockey smarts to play at the NHL level and, if he can improve his skating, he still has a chance to compete for a bottom-six job.
Here is hoping that Marody is 100% healthy when training camps start up in December or January (hopefully).